NCEAS Activity Report – Philip H. Crowley – June 1996 and July 1997
In addition to semiannual visits as a member of the Science Advisory Board, I have spent one month at NCEAS in each of the last two summers conducting research. Most of my expenses for June, 1996, were defrayed by NCEAS; all expenses for July, 1997, were paid by my home institution, the University of Kentucky.
Much of my current research uses numerical, computer-intensive methods to solve optimization problems in evolutionary ecology. NCEAS computer facilities and staff support are ideal for this kind of work. Before my arrival, the housing director had arranged a suitable apartment for me to stay during the month, and the necessary software had been loaded onto a computer set aside for my use. Within a few hours after my arrival, I was fully up to speed with the simulations I needed to run. During that month, I completed the analyses and the manuscript for a relatively long paper on optimal life histories, which is now in revision for a scientific journal. I was also able to finish the analysis of an antlion foraging project. Both of these studies were discussed in some detail with the resident postdocs and with a UCSB faculty member, whose ideas were particularly helpful.
Since most of my time during the remainder of the year goes to administrative duties, having uninterrupted time in a stimulating research environment like that at NCEAS has been critical to my ability to conduct research over the past two years. If anything, my visit during July, 1997, was even more successful, resulting in the submission of the optimal life-histories manuscript, near-completion of the antlion foraging project, and the final analysis and writing of a paper on the evolution of simultaneous hermaphroditism (now in revision for publication). By the summer of 1997, the group of resident postdocs and visitors was sufficiently large and interactive that delivering and attending weekly informal seminars (as I did) was especially valuable.
My own very satisfying experiences aside, NCEAS has become the catalyst for some of the best and most influential research and for many of the most promising efforts to address environmental issues with ecological thinking in the world. The former acting director, the current director, and the staff have created a unique environment in which to conduct and discuss ecological analysis and synthesis – with potential now being realized to enrich the way that our science can be done. I look forward to returning to NCEAS in the future and to participating in one or more of the collaborative working groups. NCEAS is an experiment that clearly seems to be working.